You won’t need to look to the multiverse for fans who’ll go nuts for Spider-Man: No Way Home, but this movie critic would have preferred a less fan service-heavy plot. The third Tom Holland-starring movie in the franchise, but also the ninth Spider-Man movie since 2000, No Way Home brings Dr. Strange into the equation to cause all kinds of mayhem, drawing in characters from the last two decades just to make things complex.
Spider-Man: No Way Home begins like the last two Jon Watts-directed movies, heavy on banter and comic relief even as bad things happen. Peter Parker and MJ (Zendaya) are in love and Ned (Jacob Batalon) is the loveable third wheel, but his secret identity has been revealed and he’s been blamed for murder and terrorism.
But it’s as if the studio(s) didn’t feel like the murder/terrorism stuff was much of a setup, so that story is quickly ignored in favor of one where Dr. Strange (played by a curmudgeonly Benedict Cumberbatch) attempts to help Peter by making everyone forget that he is Spider-Man. But Holland’s Peter does what he does best, overthinking things and messing up the spell and causing a rift in the universe, leading to more death, destruction, and tedium.
Though I’ll keep this review spoiler free, there really aren’t any surprises to be found here that haven’t been widely reported for months if not years. Aside from a few amusing cameos, Spider-Man: No Way Home is stunningly predictable, relying more on nostalgia and over-excitement from grown-up comic book fans than legitimate storytelling and character building.
I’ve really enjoyed the last two Spider-Man movies; the humor, the energy, and the chemistry and charisma of the leading cast have been fun to watch. They’ve also focused on two compelling, fleshed-out villains, a rarity in Marvel films.
Spider-Man: No Way Home has many of the elements of its immediate predecessors, but as soon as it starts drawing from previous Spider-Man franchises, it wades into tedious territory. There are a lot of amusing moments that arise from what follows, but it all feels a bit empty. Rehashing old villains may result in a split second of satisfaction, but these characters had their stories properly told and concluded years ago; they all feel tired and less interested than their original versions. They exist to serve the story, but unlike practically every Spider-Man movie to come before (yes, including those Andrew Garfield ones), Spider-Man: No Way Home is wholly uninterested in building a story around its villains.
Even still, the movie is generally entertaining. There are some decent action sequences and as convoluted and shrug-inducing the overall story is, Watts certainly makes the most of what he has to work with. Holland is still really good as Spider-Man, Zendaya plays her role well, and Batalon… well, you just want to hug him and buy him a root beer.
You’ll probably like Spider-Man: No Way Home, but if this is the best the multiverse has to offer, this next phase of Marvel movies risks jumping the shark.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.